Lethem road users question‘ongoing’ works

Although major works on the Lethem trail are slated to be completed within three months, minibus drivers who use the road said earlier this week that no works are being undertaken on pivotal sections even as good weather prevails.

Coordinator of the Work Services Group within the Public Works Ministry Leon Goring told this newspaper recently that works are progressing along the major parts of the roadway, while weather conditions continue to play a key factor in their progress.

However, several minibus drivers attached to various bus services around Georgetown said nothing was happening in terms of maintenance or upgrades to the vital road link, except for works done early last month on the roadway between the Kurupukari Crossing on the Essequibo River and Linden. The Mekdeci Mining Company has been working along the roadway in recent months, after being awarded the contract to carry out works there.

“Even as the weather holding up right now, for like a month or more now, they (contractors) just sitting there waiting on the rains to come before doing something,” said a concerned bus service operator yesterday.

Goring told Stabroek News that “the situation is not so excellent between the Kurupukari Crossing and Lethem” and added that the weather conditions over the past several months in the area have left it in a generally soggy state. Nevertheless, he noted that the contractor, BK International, is working to complete the general upgrading of the roadway within the next three months. He added that the contractor was only able to begin working on the road last month.

He said that as part of the agreement, BK International is expected to be on the road carrying out maintenance works over a one year period. But regular a user of the road yesterday described it as “hard and dry because of sun” and said that “it needs to be upgraded and further strengthened [but] these guys only waiting on rainfall to make the situation worse.”

Late last month, BK International project engineer Basdeo Ramlall told this newspaper that the scope of works between the Kurupukari Crossing and Lethem had changed following recent prolonged rainfall. Ramlall said the company began works late in July and was working some two miles before the Pirara Ranch. He said, “That area is a bad part, so we are trying to make the area passable,” he said. He added that the works include grading the area and then backfilling it with laterite and he further explained that the company had initially planned to place one foot of laterite along the roadway, but noted that “the scope of works has shifted because of the damage done to the section of the road by the weather and traffic.”

Motorists said the bad patches in the vicinity of the Pirara Ranch were indeed upgraded but added that other sections of the road, including the Hunt Oil Stretch, needed similar upgrading.

“The contractor right now ain’t doing anything to the road between the crossing and Lethem, so is like we just have to make use of the road right now with the good weather we getting,” a Church Street bus driver said.

Ramlall had noted that works are aimed at ensuring the entire roadway is passable, since traffic continues to flow between the border community and the coastland.

BK International was awarded two contracts to carry out works in the Rupununi area; to upgrade the section of the roadway between Lethem and the Kurupukari Crossing as well as to upgrade half of the roadway linking Aishalton and Lethem.

Meanwhile, Goring said the section of the road from Wismar to Mabura has been in a satisfactory state but he noted that road users, mainly minibus and truck drivers, have been driving at excessive speeds in recent weeks and the Works Ministry has cautioned road users to drive safely along the road. That section of the road saw a major vehicular accident on Friday between a truck and a minibus that resulted in the death of two persons.

Motorists travelling along the Lethem/Georgetown trail have been continually facing difficulties given the state of the roadway, and particularly during bad weather periods. In June this year, the Region 9 faced severe flooding after the main waterways overtopped, while an increase in rainfall in the Upper Essequibo contributed to an increase in water in the fluvial systems in the Upper Essequibo. As a result, the roadway, and mainly areas close to Lethem had been under several inches of water for weeks.

Residents have been calling on the government to consider upgrading the roadway to an all-weather road, given the importance of the economic link to the coastland.

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